"Akit is the man. He knows Clipper." (spenta)
"It’s a fantastic blog for any San Franciscan."
"Your blog is always on point, and well researched!" (Nina Decker)
"Everyone's favorite volunteer public policy consultant..." (Eve Batey, SF Appeal)
"You are doing a great job keeping on top of Translink stuff. Keep up the good work!"
(Greg Dewar, N Judah Chronicles)
"...I don't even bother subscribing anywhere else for my local public transportation info. You have it all..."
(Empowered Follower)
"If anyone at City Hall wants to make public transit better for all San Franciscans, it would be wise to follow Akit religiously...
or, better yet, give him a job."
(Brock Keeling, SFist)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Even More Improvements on Powell Street Parklets

Powell Street Parklet Jaywalking Improvements 2

It's been a couple of weeks since my last blog entry. How's everyone doing? I hope you enjoyed your Christmas holiday with friends and family, and New Year's Eve is just around the corner; too bad I can't get a Beach Blanket Babylon ticket for Saturday's 10PM show (totally sold out), that would have been fun to watch and celebrate the new year.

Let's get on with a new blog entry today... how's the Powell Street parklets doing?

Things are turning out for the better after several months. The barriers separating the parklet from the road are not getting bent out of shape from people sitting on it, and it's being well maintained.

Has anyone tried the free wifi access that's being powered from the solar panels? I haven't.

Powell Street Parklet Jaywalking Improvements 1

The newest improvement they've done is place steel cables between the gaps in the parklets to prevent jaywalking. The trash can looking objects that holds plants wasn't doing a great job in preventing someone from jaywalking and getting hit by a Cable Car or car, so the new cables are doing the role. It's good they are using steel cables because the stuff that's keeping people from jaywalking from the Ocean Beach parking lot to the Beach Chalet keeps breaking and people risk their lives crossing a four lane road with vehicles going at 35 MPH.

Even then, jaywalking is still rampant on Powell Street because the parklets doesn't cover the entire blocks as they still need unloading/drop-off zones for deliveries and taxicabs for the hotels.

I'm proud my blog has forced the city to make essential upgrades to the Powell Street parklets in the name of safety, but I'm still disappointed it took them so long to do it.

To read the entire Powell Parklet saga: First blog entry, repair update, and second repair update.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Clipper Not Mandatory for BART Discounts - Paper Tickets Continue to be Sold After 12/31

BART Gate & Clipper Card

BART listened and they've done something pretty remarkable.

MTC and Clipper threatened BART that if they don't end all sales of blue, green, and red discount tickets by the end of this year, they will cut their funding. I argued the transition for adults was poorly thought out and hurts those with commuter benefits. And some people have told me the transit benefit maximum monthly limit is going back down from $230 to $120 a month, and for those who are required to link their commuter debit card to their Clipper card, it means more blocked Clipper cards for insufficient funds or a denied reload.

Since BART decided Clipper autoload was the only way to continue getting adult high value discounts (extra $2 in fare money for every $30), that made a lot of people grumpy, especially when there are no other options to load HVD value, such as paying in cash.

Good news, BART will continue selling all discount tickets after December 31st!

In a news release on December 8th, it says the following:
  • Red and green tickets will still be sold after December 31st at these "My Transit Plus" locations at: Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, Civic Center, Bayfair, Walnut Creek, Richmond, and Oakland Coliseum/Airport BART stations.
  • Red and green tickets will also continue be sold at SFO Airport and the main ticket window at Lake Merritt station.
  • Blue high value tickets will continue to be sold at the above listed "My Transit Plus," SFO Airport, and Lake Merritt ticket window.

To support BART's statement, Clipper's website also states the following:
"After December 31, High Value, Red and Green discount tickets won't be available at most retailers."

If you read that correctly, the keyword from Clipper is: "most," which means there will still be places in the Bay Area to buy all three types of discount tickets in paper/mag stripe form.

Akit's Opinion
The main reason why the high value blue, green, and red paper tickets will still be sold is because of tourists. Since getting a youth or senior card takes time, having the discount tickets will allow those who are eligible to access BART fairly with the proper discount.

By having the blue HVD tickets continue to be sold, this allows those who pays with cash or commuter paper vouchers to continue to buy their tickets without being forced accept Clipper as vendors don't accept paper vouchers in exchange for Clipper HVD, and the only method of paying is through autoload. It's exceptionally difficult for those who cannot obtain a commuter debit card to get the 6.26% discount they've been getting for years with paper vouchers.

It's time to celebrate! Akit's Complaint Department and people around the Bay Area cried out to BART, and they've done something positive.

Why are we Ignoring the Alleged SF Mayor Elections Fraud?

San Francisco Proposition B Fail

It's been a little over a month since the November elections day and we have a new mayor, but there's still a big dark cloud hovering over City Hall. Many of you may not have thought about it or just decided to ignore it after election day and all the ballots was counted up...

I'm going to stand up and ask the question RIGHT NOW:
What ever happened to the alleged voter fraud?

You've seen the video, you've read it on news sources like SFGate/Chronicle, Huffington Post, and SFist; and a lot of you were angry.


Here's the whole story: On Friday, October 21st, an "independent expenditure committee" that is supporting Ed Lee for Mayor, decided to set-up a makeshift area in the heart of Chinatown on Stockton Street. Video footage from SFGate and a detailed report from the Bay Citizen claims these volunteers shows the volunteers assisting the citizens fill out their ballots.

The committee claims they did not do anything illegal, while outside observers claims when the local press was watching what they were doing, the volunteers hid the ballots (hinting that a possible crime may be in progress), and a person claimed the volunteers was filling out the ballots for the citizens.

Another accusation was the completed and sealed absentee ballots was "then collected the marked ballots in plastic bags" (SF Appeal, October 24th).

A Lot of Questions to Ask
I'm deeply concerned and I think the people of this fine city should know, what, if anything has our local, state, or federal government has done to investigate this alleged voter fraud?

And why wasn't this fully investigated PRIOR to election day?

If you are familiar with elections laws and you look at the allegations of the independent committee doing these alleged law violations, here's what laws they may have broken:
  1. Having someone else (other than the registered voter), fill out the ballot without the voter explicitly saying what they want to vote for. Assisting someone to fill out a ballot when the voter says what they want to vote for and the voter verifies the ballot is totally legal; having someone vote for you (e.g. voting twice in one election) is illegal.
  2. Collecting absentee ballots in an improper manner. The envelope clearly states that only the voter or a member of the household can collect the ballot, and can mail it (prior to election day) or hand deliver it to a polling place. If the allegations are true, the independent committee should have never collected completed and sealed absentee ballots as they are not members of the voter's household.

Akit's Opinions
Even though I dislike Ed Lee as he was a replacement for Newsom (whom I also dislike), I need to make myself clear: Since this "independent expenditure committee" is not related to the [real] Ed Lee for Mayor campaign, I'm not painting a target on Ed Lee; only the fools stupid enough to pull such a stunt in public and in the middle of Chinatown.

Based on the number of votes for Ed Lee after the instant run-off process, voiding the ballots of the alleged ballot violations would unlikely change anything, but that still doesn't ignore the fact that a possible crime may have been committed.

If the government ignores election fraud allegations, it violates the integrity of the elections process because you let people slide away and possibly let it happen again in the future. Enforcement should be tough because voting is the only way any citizen, rich or poor, can change the way our city, state, and nation operates with a simple stroke of a pen.

The integrity is what gains the trust of the people. The California Lottery does random stings to see if their retailers are trustworthy because if you didn't know you had a winning $1,000 ticket and the retailer says you didn't in the name of greed, would you trust the state lottery when you found out the retailer was eventually arrested for grand theft? The same goes with elections fraud: if people are breaking the rules, people won't trust voting; that's one of our most sacred rights in our Constitution today.

When I read the news stories from various news sources, I felt the allegations was extremely troubling. My comments on SFGate and SFist was very clear: regardless if it is declared legal or illegal of what the committee did, it was purely immoral and unethical. If someone is out on the streets to help people fill in their ballots in a legal manner, it shouldn't be a volunteer that is supporting a specific candidate or pro/negative proposition, it should be someone NEUTRAL.

I've made my point. People of San Francisco, it's time to speak up and demand your government for answers on the alleged voter fraud.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Riding a Bike at Night: Use Some Common Sense

Bicyclist on Twin Peaks

I know I'm going to get some more hate mail. My previous post about bikes on escalators got me a heck of a lot of comments, so if you are interesting in debating this particular issue, please do leave a comment.


Since the time change and the sun is setting around 5PM, my commute from SF State to my home in the Outer Richmond district is dark, and especially kinda creepy along the roads in Golden Gate Park due to the lack of lighting and raccoons jumping in front of your car. I'm not a fan of driving in the evening, but it's what you have to do if you want to get home (or start work extra early and leave earlier).

Almost on a daily basis during the evening commute, I notice bicyclists riding in Golden Gate Park without a headlight and/or a taillight. Even worse is finding a bicyclist with no lights, no reflectors, and no reflective clothing. With the lack of normal street lighting in Golden Gate Park, it's difficult to find a bike rider when they are not using the most basic equipment to make themselves obvious and stand out for their own safety.

Yes, there is a state law: Vehicle Code Section 21201 states the following requirements for riding at night:
  1. A white lamp on the front end of the bike that illuminates the road ahead and can be seen by an approaching vehicle/person from 300 feet, OR a white lamp seen at the same distance but attached on the front of the bicycle operator (e.g. front of a helmet).
  2. A red reflector on the rear that can be reflected from lawful vehicle headlights 500 feet away.
  3. Yellow or white pedal reflectors seen 200 feet.
  4. White or yellow reflectors on the both the front and rear tire spokes, or reflectors on both tires.

It isn't rocket science people, it's common sense.

Why we have laws when common sense should prevail is up for debate, but let's get to the facts, people who do bicycle at night should take additional precautions versus riding during the day. The law makes it clear, but people should be doing more in the name of being safe. Here's some additional suggestions:
  • Put a rear tail light, especially one that rapidly flashes a LED lamp.
  • Wear reflective clothing. You might look like the construction worker in the Village People, but at least people can see you better. If you don't want to wear "Caltrans Orange," why not wear a white jacket? Just please, don't wear dark clothing.
  • Wear a helmet, day and night. If you get hit or fall over, would you like your skull to hit the pavement or have a cushion to lessen the blow? I saw a bicyclist cross over the cable car tracks and slipped and fell to the pavement. Not a pretty scene.

At minimum, having at least a front and rear tail lamp helps a lot in locating you when you operate a bicycle at night. I think a lot of drivers would agree, the more obvious you can be, the better it is for everyone. I fear hitting a bicyclist with my car, but if you stick out like a thorn on the streets, I can start planning earlier to steer clear and let you have the lane.

While I'm at it, pedestrians should at least wear some reflective clothing. Why people jog at night through Golden Gate Park is a mystery, but please just DON'T WEAR BLACK!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cool Clipper Card Statistics & More

Three Generations of Transit Cards (TransLink Pilot, TransLink, and Clipper) Widescreen

The MTC's Operations Committee is meeting this Friday morning and Clipper will be a topic of discussion.

Let's get onto the lead story today, some cool stats from the folks at Clipper:
The documentation from the committee shows a comparison of usage from October 2011, September 2011 (prior month), and October 2010 (page 4 of PDF document). Some are well expected (like the increase of growth and usage), while others show a great improvement in how Clipper is operating:

As of October 2011, Clipper has surpassed the average number of weekday transactions goal of 500,000. The number of transactions has doubled in just one year.
--October 2011: 571,532
--September 2011: 555,273
--October 2010: 226,160

There are over one million active Clipper card accounts as of October 2011. This has nearly tripled in the last 12 months.
--October 2011: 1,058,312
--September 2011: 991,253
--October 201: 315,551

Interestingly, the number of registered Clipper cards has dropped dramatically. Last year, nearly 80% registered their Clipper card for benefits like balance restoration. But with the growth of the Clipper card and people making the decision to use their card anonymously, the number has dropped by nearly half.
--October and September 2011: 43% of Clipper cards in use
--October 2010: 77%

Have you ever wondered, how many people use the autoload program? The statistics show that less than 40% are enrolled in the program, even though the number of users has increased and mandatory enrollment for those who transitioned from BART's EZ Rider HVD ticket program. But while the percentage of users is very slowly growing from a year ago, the number of autoload transactions has doubled.
--October 2011: 39% of cards enrolled w/autoload, 219,568 autoload transactions for month.
--September 2011: 39%, 209,674
--October 2010: 36%, 92,018

Just how many people call customer service in a month? It's over 30,000, but there was a huge spike in September 2011 of phone calls. What's really interesting is that back in October 2010, there was three times less Clipper cards in active use, but maintained the same number of phone calls in comparison to October and September 2011.
--October 2011: 37,820 customer service representative calls
--September 2011: 42,124
--October 2010: 36,051

You may think that's a hell of a lot of phone calls, but if you crunch the numbers, it is actually getting better month by month:
--October 2011: 0.08 customer service calls per unique card used
--September 2011: 0.09
--October 2010: 0.16

In summary: Clipper continues to grow as passes and tickets switch over, but it is good to see people are not calling customer service as often for help. I'm guessing the population is getting used to using their Clipper card, knows where their nearest retailer is, and improved maintenance of the service. In a shameless move, I should also get credit for informing the public too, right?

As for other Clipper related stuff in the committee's agenda...
They are planning to approve to renew contractors for public relations firms. The public relations firms the MTC hires does the publications, promotions, tabling, educating, sign-ups, and others.

Um... can I get a contract too for blogging on Clipper? I'm low cost!

Akit's Opinions
This is just a usual meeting for Clipper. I don't think there will be much new news these days as Clipper advances towards their next goals: Transition of all Samtrans passes and BART HVD tickets to Clipper only.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hey Muni, Fix Your Destination Signs

Muni to Chinatown Station?

Ever ride Muni and sometimes notice your bus or train's destination sign doesn't seem right? I know some of you N-Judah passengers are not that happy when the train operator boots your ass out of the train at 19th and Judah to go back towards downtown when the destination sign says: "Ocean Beach."

On a few occasions, it may be an honest mistake. For example, I ride the 38L-Geary Limited going inbound towards the Transbay Terminal, and the sign accidentally says "48th Avenue,' but we know the bus is really going towards downtown. Even the photo I provided for this blog entry shows just how funny it is to find some Muni operators already using "Chinatown Station" when it won't be ready for another few years.

But as always, you can always laugh at the F-Market's signage: "Nowhere in particular."

Unhelpful and Uncooperative Operators who Refuses to Fix Bad Signage
The primary reason why I'm writing about this is just the bad attitude you get from Muni operators for pointing out the problem. Just yesterday, I was waiting at 14th Avenue and West Portal for the next inbound train. A K-Ingleside/T-Third train arrives and the destination sign says "West Portal."

I asked the operator: "Are you turning back at West Portal? Your sign says "West Portal."" The operator doesn't speak loud enough even though my ear is right next to the opening in the window. I asked him to speak louder and he gives me a snarky remark saying it's going to downtown. I argued that all inbound K/T inbound trains should always say the final destination is: "Sunnydale" and his current signage is misleading. That sure pissed him off as he jammed the accelerator and hit the brakes hard.

I had the same situation happen when I was going towards AT&T Park and the K/T train said: "Embarcadero Station." I had to verbally ask the driver to make sure we are all on the same page.

Do some of those operators realize that when speaking to a passenger through the window, they should at least speak up or at least turn their head and speak towards the passenger if the train is stopped?

Come on Muni, make sure your operators have the correct destination signs at all times.